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Our view: Faster than the speed of sound: A game-changer
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OUR VIEW

Our view: Faster than the speed of sound: A game-changer

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Now we know.

The new economic development project that could come to Piedmont Triad International Airport would push the limits of passenger air travel … well past the speed of sound.

It could break other barriers as well, significantly burnishing the Triad’s national image as a center for aerospace manufacturing and innovation.

That’s not hyperbole.

As it turns out, a tenant that most state and local officials still won’t mention by name is Boom Supersonic, a Denver-based start-up that plans essentially to build a new and improved version of the Concorde, the sleek transatlantic passenger jet that was as glamorous as it was impractical.

The cool, stiletto-shaped Concorde SST, which debuted in 1976 for British Airways and Air France, was mothballed in 2003 because it was too loud and too expensive. Concorde ticket prices ran the equivalent of $13,000 in 2021 dollars and the planes had to avoid flying overland because of the window-rattling sonic booms faster-than-sound air travel entails.

But Boom plans an improved version of supersonic travel that is both cheaper and quieter — at least when flying over populated areas.

The 205-foot-long Overture jet, which resembles a scaled-down version of the Concorde, would carry as many as 88 passengers, fly at a maximum speed of 1,300 mph and run on more environmentally friendly biofuels as opposed to petroleum.

And it would be built here, in a plant that would break ground in 2022.

The deal is expected to be finalized within 30 to 90 days. And if this all comes to pass, it would be, yes, transformative, for the Triad economy.

Boom Supersonic would closely follow another cutting-edge project, a Toyota electric car battery plant that will be built at the Greensboro-Randolph Megasite.

Both Boom Supersonic and the battery plant are forward-looking ventures based on where the technology is going, not where it is.

Boom also would build on an already-impressive base of aerospace companies in the airport area, including Hondajet, HAECO, Cessna and FedEx.

Hondajet, in particular, has much in common with Boom. Headquartered in Greensboro, with a manufacturing facility in Burlington, that company also is based on innovation — in Hondajet’s case, a compact, personal jet designed primarily for small groups of travelers.

Then there are the jobs. Boom Supersonic would employ at least 1,750 workers at an average annual salary of $60,000. The company’s total overall investment in the Triad is projected to be at least $500 million.

Beyond the jobs is the value such companies bring to the local tax base, which helps pay for essential services such as public schools.

Boom was founded six years ago by a former Groupon director, Blake Scholl. Boom envisions flights to 500 global destinations in half the time takes today. At affordable prices.

“Here is the future I believe in,” Scholl says in a promotional video. “A future in which you can get anywhere on the planet in four hours for just a hundred bucks — a world in which the fastest flight is also the cheapest and there’s no reason ever to board a slow plane.”

Well, we’ll see.

This is, after all, a start-up in a highly competitive industry.

But United Airlines already has ordered 15 Overture jets with an option to buy 35 more, The (Raleigh) News & Observer reports. Other early customers include Japan Airlines and the U.S. Air Force.

As for the bigger picture, the possibilities are tantalizing.

“It will have a major impact on this region and will be a major economic boom for this region,” N.C. Rep. Donny Lambeth, a Republican from Forsyth County, told The News & Observer last week in a text.

Finally, for all the criticism it receives — primarily for not being a passenger hub like Raleigh or Charlotte — PTI Airport remains an invaluable resource for the Triad.

It’s the reason we have FedEx and Hondajet and HAECO, among many others.

So is the Triad’s location near a confluence of major interstates and rail lines.

The lion’s share of this region’s future economic fortunes will depend on planes, trains and automobiles.

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